Book Events, Books, Events

Cover Reveal: ‘Teen Frankenstein’ by Chandler Baker!

We’re excited to have our first ever cover reveal here on Lytherus! The cover for Chandler Baker’s upcoming High School Horror book, Teen Frankenstein, recently got a fun overhaul, and we’re bringing the new look to you exclusively. We’re also really excited to share some thoughts on the development of the cover from one of the heads of Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Jean Feiwel. Be sure to check out her insights below.
So, without further ado, here’s the new cover!

Two People in Silhouete; Shutterstock ID 1733613

Here’s what Jean had to say about its creation:

The challenge of creating a distinctive and singular image for Teen Frankenstein was the ubiquitous number of images associated with the name.  The classic Shelley novel–of which there are multiple versions and the many television/movies old and new.  So how to set yourself apart? What I love about the cover our Creative Director, Rich Deas, has come up with is that it’s simple and sinister.  It takes a minute to know what you’re looking at.  You’re drawn closer.. And then you see the profile, the lightening, the staples. Ah, there he is–Teen Frankenstein.  Grim, but beautiful.  
-Jean Feiwel, Senior VP and Director, Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group
I definitely did not see the profile until it was pointed out to me in the above description, and that makes it all the more awesome. The clean, evocative image is a great fit for the upcoming book.
Enjoy horror? Here’s the description of the book to whet your appetite:

It was a dark and stormy night when Tor Frankenstein accidentally hits someone with her car. And kills him. But, all is not lost-Tor, being the scientific genius she is, brings him back to life…

Thus begins a twisty, turn-y take on a familiar tale, set in the town of Hollow Pines, Texas, where high school is truly horrifying.

High School Horror: Teen Frankenstein by Chandler Baker hits shelves on January 12, 2016.

Book Editorial, Book Events, Books, Editorials, Events

SDCC14: Some of the world’s biggest fantasy writers talk about putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy

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L to R: Weeks, Wexler, Sykes, Abercrombie, Hobb, Rhodes, Feist, and Rothfuss

Lytherus had the good fortune of attending not one, but two epic fantasy panels at San Diego Comic Con this year. The first (aptly named “Putting the Epic in Epic Fantasy”) had an amazing lineup of authors: Django Wexler (The Shadow Throne), Sam Sykes (The City Stained Red),  Joe Abercrombie (Half a King), Robin Hobb (Fool’s Assassin), Morgan Rhodes (The Fallen Kingdom Series), Rayond E. Feist (Magician’s End), and Patrick Rothfuss (The Slow Regard of Silent Things), with Brent Weeks (The Way of Shadows) as the MC.

Brent kicked it off with a hilarious intro to all of the authors, complete with photo slideshow, which had everyone in stitches in the first few minutes. Once he got into the meat of the panel though, some great questions were asked. First up: Does it make sense to have traditions in fantasy? Pat started everyone off, saying that he doesn’t really know where his position is with this, using Christianity going from one to many types as a parallel example, and saying that we can follow the trends, like from Harry Potter now over to George R.R. Martin. He also said that he’s inspired from stuff he doesn’t like as much as stuff he does. Sam added to this, saying how things we liked as kids we may be ashamed of as adults (he likened Dragon Lance to porn as an example and got a great laugh)

Next Brent moved on to individual questions, starting with asking Django to talk about military fantasy. He said GRRM was a direct inspiration, and liked how he took things back to their roots, referencing the Napoleonic wars, etc. Also, some things were a result of HP, the idea of wondering what it would be like if the mentor was untrustworthy (i.e. a sketchy Dumbledore, which also got some laughs).

LMZ_8692wBrent used this to transition to Robin, asking her how she’d describe her writing and how she thinks she fits into the GRRM era. She said simply that she’s trying to tell a story. She’s not trying to change your mind or inspire you, and there are really no boundaries. No one can tell the same story the same way, and on top of that, all artists are thieves. Ray added to this, saying that you can’t predict success with this. GRRM cheats. He cheats. All writers cheat (the example he uses is a scene in one of George’s books with soldiers that isn’t historically accurate, but works to drive the story forward). Writers cheat so they can focus on what’s most interesting, Ray continued. They hope what they write is interesting to others too.

Morgan was up next, and Brent wanted to know what made her want to write her YA fantasy book, as she’s sometimes seen as the YA GRRM. She’s new to fantasy, having written in the paranormal genre for a while, so she wanted to pull from fantasy she loved, like the movies Willow and Legend, and even Disney princesses. And then she started watching Game of Thrones and was like WTF?! It all went into her melting pot. She’s not trying to write for anyone specific, it’s just the story.

At this point Joe interjected that it’s amazing to him that no one has mentioned Tolkien yet. A few years ago it was Tolkien and only Tolkien. Pat added to this, talking about how things seem to swing in four-year intervals. It was Harry Potter for a while, and then it was the LOTR movies, and now Game of Thrones. He said it’s hard in the moment to say if it’s an overall shifting of genre, or if it’s just this moment in time. Django added that Harry Potter made people see YA and MG in a new way, and the post-HP world is very different.

Sam then wondered why GoT is different, the appeal is different. Usually the good guys win. GoT changed the rules. Everyone was like “You can’t DO that!”, and maybe that’s what makes it appealing. Robin added that it’s great because GoT brings in a new readership who haven’t read anything like it, or their work, before. Pat got a laugh with the reference that people still refer to fantasy as ghetto. First LOTR, then HP, now GoT. At some point you have to stop saying it’s ghetto.

At this point there were some audience questions, most of them directed towards one author or another vs. the whole group. But the energy was jovial and the audience seemed to really enjoy the panel. I also had a great time, and really loved the insight of how the genre is evolving. This panel had some of the great fantasy writers of our time, and it was wonderful to get a peek into their minds and their worlds. I’ll definitely be curious to see what big thing of the genre will be latched onto next, but for now we will have to wait and see!

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Interview: Ten questions with Anne Leonard, author of ‘Moth and Spark’

To finish off our Featured Author Week with Anne Leonard, she was kind enough to sit down and answer some questions for us about dragons, fantasy, her characters, and writing. Be sure to check it out below!

moth-and-spark-headline-cover

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1: For those who are unfamiliar with you, tell us a little about yourself.

I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was a kid, so most of life has been about finding ways to write. I got an MFA and then tried the academic route (Ph.D.), which turned out not to be what I wanted. I eventually ended up as a lawyer, where I could make money by writing. (I used to joke that I got paid for telling people they were wrong.) I continued to write fiction and now am a full-time writer. I live in Northern California with my husband, our teenaged son, and our two black cats, Puck and Theo. For fun I go out on walks and take photographs. I’m also a baseball fan.

2: In your own words, can you give us a little summary of Moth and Spark?

Boy meets girl and they have adventures. More seriously, there are two main plots wrapped together. One is about magically enslaved dragons who are using the male lead, Prince Corin, to get free, and the other is about him and Tam falling in love. It turns out that she has magical power of her own, and the two of them work together to solve the problem of the dragons.

3: Dragons have been written about for ages. How did you approach creating and then writing them, so that they felt fresh and new for readers?

One thing I did was think a lot about my experiences with snakes, so that I could have some very real reptile images to use in the writing. I have never had snakes myself, but a college friend did, and I walked around with a 9 or 10 foot constrictor on my shoulders once. Snakes are really cool. I also knew that I didn’t want my dragons to be very human-like, but I did want them sentient and not wild beasts, so I thought a lot about dragon communication with each other and with humans. They have a language that’s not like human language.

 4: You alternate between the leads of Tam and Corin in the story. Which voice came to you first? Is one easier to write than the other?

Corin was the character I started with, because it had been a while since I’d done a male POV in my writing, but it took a little more writing to figure out exactly who he was. Tam came easier at first, because I was a lot clearer on who I wanted her to be when I started writing about her. Now, every time I’m writing one of them I think the other is easier, so it must be about the same.

5: This book is part adventure, political intrigue, romance, and self-discovery. Is there one element that stood out to you as your favorite to develop and write?

The romance was the impetus behind the story, but the politics is most interesting to me on an intellectual level. One of the reasons I went to law school was that the characters in the fiction I was writing were starting to spend lots of time talking about politics and justice, and it seemed like if that was my interest, I ought to get paid for it. I think the same things that make law interesting to me are what make fantasy literature interesting – it’s about systems of power and questions of justice. Both are about people in conflict in the context of larger forces.

B&W.Anne Leonard.credit Judith Love Pietromartire6: From the beginning of the book to the end both Tam and Corin change a lot. What can we expect from them as the story proceeds?

This is kind of hard to answer without a lot of spoilers, but for her at least it’s really about figuring out who she is and having the courage to stick to it – discovering her own autonomy. For him it’s more about picking out his path among things he can’t control. They both have to learn how to love someone, and they have to learn how to negotiate the various kinds of power that they have.

7: The politics of the land are complicated and intricately interwoven. Take us through the process of creating the lands and the challenges of balancing the various political schemes.

Ack. This was rough and took several drafts to develop into the shape it finally took. One of the hurdles I create for myself as a writer is setting up situations before I figure out the motives that led to them, so I had to go back and back-track a lot. I knew that I wanted an invading army as the fuse that set other things in motion, and I also knew that I wanted the politics of imperialism to play a part, but it wasn’t until I really figured out the role of the dragons that I knew where to go with that. Then with the more local politics I initially created something that was way too complicated to sustain and I had to back down on the intrigue to keep the book from tying itself in knots. I read some history and historical novels, not for specific ideas but just to get a sense of things that could happen, and I did some looking at political philosophy too. I have plenty of job experience working in places with lots of internal politics, so creating it was easy – making it fit was harder.

8: Tell us about your writing process. Walk us through a typical day. Do you outline a lot, or do you try and let the story flow as you’re writing?

I don’t outline much, and I actually want to try doing more of that in the future. I have to do a lot of writing to get to know my characters and what situations will wind them up – I also revise a lot as I go along, so Chapter 1 might be through 3 or 4 drafts before the last chapter is even started. It’s helpful sometimes to write back story or scenes that don’t actually go in just to get a sense of what’s happening. When I get stuck, it usually means something is missing earlier, so I re-read my drafts frequently. I also discuss things with other people I trust, but not much. My husband is a therapist, so sometimes he does therapy on my characters, which is very helpful. One of the most unexpectedly frustrating things about publication now is that as I answer people’s questions about the novel, I see things I want to change, and it’s too late! I try to take walks a few times a week or when I’m really stuck, and if I need to shake stuff in my head around a lot I will read poetry or watch a movie.

9: Can you tell us anything about book 2 to help hold us over?

Well, right not it’s not finished so I can’t promise anything and I am a little wary of talking about it too much, but it’s darker, without so much romance. The characters are all less shiny. And I’m writing some chapters in the point of view of the villain, which I have never done before and which is tremendous fun. The plot involves the fall-out from the events of MOTH AND SPARK, but ideally it too can be read as a standalone. I did not intend to write a sequel at all – I had spent a lot of time living with these people already and wanted something new – but when I created the character of this particular villain, then I had to keep going.

10: What’s on your reading shelf right now? Anything you’ve read recently that you’d recommend? We’re always looking for great books.

I’ve been reading a lot of recent SFF (including some YA) to catch up on the genre, but I’m feeling like I’m at the point where I need to cut down on my reading so that it doesn’t take my focus off my writing, so I’m going to switch my upcoming reading to more mystery/ suspense and “literary” fiction on my TBR pile. I’m not allowed to go to the library again for a while. The most recent book I bought was The Long Goodbye by Raymond Chandler, but the one I think I’m going to start up again with first is The Children’s Book by A.S. Byatt. The writer I’m recommending to everyone right now is Cormac McCarthy, who is tough to read emotionally but is just phenomenal with his language and storytelling. I’m also excited to read Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi, which is just coming out.

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Thanks Anne! Don’t forget to check out the rest of our Anne Leonard Feature Author Week, including entering for your chance to win a copy of Moth and Spark. Want to know more about Anne? Check out her website at www.anneleonardbooks.com, and follow her on twitter @anneleonardauth.

Book Editorial, Books, Editorials, Movies

Five books to read if you liked ‘Ender’s Game’

You’ve read the book. You’ve seen the move. Now what? Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a modern classic and much beloved. Many people are going to be experiencing Ender’s world for the first time through the movie release this week, and old and new fans alike are going to be itching for something similar. Here is a list of five books that you might enjoy if you loved Ender.

the-giver-by-lois-lowry1: The Giver, by Lois Lowry

This is another modern classic, and was one of the first dystopian books written to be seen that way. It’s a small book and a quick read, but it packs a lot of punch with great characters and a unique world. Here’s a blurb:

The Giver, the 1994 Newbery Medal winner, has become one of the most influential novels of our time. The haunting story centers on twelve-year-old Jonas, who lives in a seemingly ideal, if colorless, world of conformity and contentment. Not until he is given his life assignment as the Receiver of Memory does he begin to understand the dark, complex secrets behind his fragile community. Lois Lowry has written three companion novels to The Giver, including Gathering Blue, Messenger, and Son.

starship troopers1:  Starship Troopers, by Robert A. Heinlein

This is another book that was turned into a movie. Sometimes referred to as the grown-up version of Ender’s Game, this is a great read that makes you think about what’s important and the way we view the world. And there’s creepy alien bugs! Here’s a blurb:

The historians can’t seem to settle whether to call this one “The Third Space War” (or the fourth), or whether “The First Interstellar War” fits it better. We just call it “The Bug War.” Everything up to then and still later were “incidents,” “patrols,” or “police actions.” However, you are just as dead if you buy the farm in an “incident” as you are if you buy it in a declared war…

In one of Robert A. Heinlein’s most controversial bestsellers, a recruit of the future goes through the toughest boot camp in the Universe—and into battle with the Terran Mobile Infantry against mankind’s most alarming enemy.

old man's war3: Old Man’s War, by John Scalzi

Scalzi is widely popular for his interesting scifi books, and this is one of his best (and also happens to be his first). He manages to keep the characters really human, which is one of the best parts of Ender’s Game as well. That, combined with greag humor and fresh-feeling scifi makes this a great read. Here’s a blurb:

John Perry did two things on his 75th birthday. First he visited his wife’s grave. Then he joined the army.

The good news is that humanity finally made it into interstellar space. The bad news is that planets fit to live on are scarce-and aliens willing to fight for them are common. The universe, it turns out, is a hostile place.

So: we fight. To defend Earth (a target for our new enemies, should we let them get close enough) and to stake our own claim to planetary real estate. Far from Earth, the war has gone on for decades: brutal, bloody, unyielding.

Earth itself is a backwater. The bulk of humanity’s resources are in the hands of the Colonial Defense Force, which shields the home planet from too much knowledge of the situation. What’s known to everybody is that when you reach retirement age, you can join the CDF. They don’t want young people; they want people who carry the knowledge and skills of decades of living. You’ll be taken off Earth and never allowed to return. You’ll serve your time at the front. And if you survive, you’ll be given a generous homestead stake of your own, on one of our hard-won colony planets.

John Perry is taking that deal. He has only the vaguest idea what to expect. Because the actual fight, light-years from home, is far, far harder than he can imagine-and what he will become is far stranger.

the name of the wind4: The Name of the Wind, by Patrick Rothfuss

This is a fantasy book, not scifi, but it’s another example of an exceptional child being put into interesting adult situations. This book is hugely popular, and Rothfuss creates a diverse and complex world filled with interesting people. Here’s a blurb:

The riveting first-person narrative of a young man who grows to be the most notorious magician his world has ever seen. From his childhood in a troupe of traveling players, to years spent as a near-feral orphan in a crime- ridden city, to his daringly brazen yet successful bid to enter a legendary school of magic, The Name of the Wind is a masterpiece that transports readers into the body and mind of a wizard. It is a high-action novel written with a poet’s hand, a powerful coming-of-age story of a magically gifted young man, told through his eyes: to read this book is to be the hero.

the maze runner5: The Maze Runner, by James Dashner

This YA dystopian is unique and fantastic, and is a world of all boys and one girl trapped in a maze with no idea why they are there. There’s a great creep-factor, interesting mysteries, and wonderful peer dynamics that Ender’s fans will enjoy. Here’s a blurb:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every thirty days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

What do you think? Any books we missed that you think fans of Ender’s Game will enjoy? Let us know in the comments!

 

Book Events, Books, Events

Giveaway: Win one of three copies of Lauren Kate’s new book ‘Teardrop’!

As part of the Lauren Kate featured author week, we’re giving away three  copies of her new book, Teardrop!  

TeardropWhat’s Teardrop?  Below is the amazon summary. Also, you can see our review here.

The first in a new series by Lauren Kate, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of the Fallen series, TEARDROP is an epic saga of heart-stopping romance, devastating secrets, and dark magic . . . a world where everything you love can be washed away.

Never, ever cry. . . . Eureka Boudreaux’s mother drilled that rule into her daughter years ago. But now her mother is gone, and everywhere Eureka goes he is there: Ander, the tall, pale blond boy who seems to know things he shouldn’t, who tells Eureka she is in grave danger, who comes closer to making her cry than anyone has before.

But Ander doesn’t know Eureka’s darkest secret: ever since her mother drowned in a freak accident, Eureka wishes she were dead, too. She has little left that she cares about, just her oldest friend, Brooks, and a strange inheritance—a locket, a letter, a mysterious stone, and an ancient book no one understands. The book contains a haunting tale about a girl who got her heart broken and cried an entire continent into the sea. Eureka is about to discover that the ancient tale is more than a story, that Ander might be telling the truth . . . and that her life has far darker undercurrents than she ever imagined.

Our giveaway process is simple, but unfortunately only open to residents of North America (sorry, international fans!). If you’re under 18, please make sure to get your parents’ permission to enter the giveaway. You can earn a total of six entries in the giveaway:

  • ONE entry for simply entering the giveaway
  • TWO entries for following us on Twitter
  • TWO entries for “liking” us on Facebook
  • ONE entry for talking about the giveaway on Twitter

The giveaway will stay open until Tuesday, October 29, at 11:59 pm. Winners will automatically be chosen at random via Rafflecopter. The first name of the winner will be announced on this post and the winner will be contacted by a member of our staff to begin the process of shipping out your prize.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

The Emerald Atlas: A Refreshing Break from Typical YA, and a Perfect Adventure Story

Orphans Kate, Michael, and Emma have been tossed from orphanage to orphanage their entire lives. Their latest destination is a huge, creepy castle-like mansion in the mountains (mountains they don’t remember to have existed), owned by a mysterious Dr. Pym. Bored one day after realizing they are the only children there, the siblings begin to explore and stumble across an old laboratory where they find a beautiful book with a green cover. But this is no ordinary book; this book allows them to travel back and forth through time with the assistance of photographs. Thus begins John Stephens’s amazing adventure story The Emerald Atlas, which was released on April 5th, 2011.

This book was a really nice read, and a refreshing break from the teenage angst that is present in most of the YA books out right now. The focus of this book was adventure, and it nailed it. These kids get tossed back in time to the same place, but things are so very different from the mansion of their time that they don’t even know where to begin to figure out how to get home. As if that wasn’t enough for a couple of kids to deal with, an evil woman is controlling the town, kidnapping children and forcing their fathers to work for her, digging in mines. She’s looking for something, and if you think about it, you’ll figure out what it is. There are dilemmas left and right, and the tension keeps building well throughout the entire story. The book is written in third person, so it allows the main characters to split up from time to time while continuing the story, which worked really well for the progression of the narration  of this tale.

This is a difficult book to categorize age-wise, in my opinion. The characters and the ideas fit well with middle-grade, but sometimes Stephens’s descriptions and language are a bit advanced for the average reader in that age range. So it was an interesting feeling, having both of those elements as I read. They occasionally seemed to war with each other, and that was slightly jarring. But honestly, that is the only negative thing I can find about the book. The character development, family values, mystery, magic, and of course adventure were so well-done that it balanced out any arrhythmic elements. I had to keep reading. I wanted to know what the real purpose of the story was.

The strongest story point though was the dynamic of the children and their missing parents. Kate, being the oldest at 14, remembers when her mom kissed her goodbye ten years prior, before telling her to look out for her siblings and disappearing from their life. They all cling to the hope that their parents will return, and the way this storyline is handled in the book is excellent. I feel for the kids, and I was completely captivated by the mystery surrounding the parents’ disappearance. There weren’t a lot of those questions answered in this book, so I’ll definitely be waiting to get my hands on the next book in the series.

If you like the occasional (or not-so-occasional!) adventure-based book, this is a great one to snatch up. There is magic and great human relationships mixed in with the adversities the siblings face, making this a well-rounded story that was a fun read.

Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Throat: Don’t Judge This Unique, Intelligent Book by its Stereotypical Cover

One of the perks of being a book reviewer for a website like this is we get access to books, often ahead of schedule. Throat, by R. A. Nelson (released January 25th, 2011) was one of those books, and not one I would have necessarily read on my own. It is called Throat for goodness sakes, which immediately made me think of vampires (and I wasn’t wrong), and the cover is a girl bending her head back. None of this seemed very unique or exciting. But I read the blurb, wanting to give this book a chance, and my interest was immediately swayed. Something that looked typical turned out to be a smart, creative read with unique ideas on an over-done theme.

From the start this book is a little different than most YA urban fantasy with paranormal romance overtones. The main character, Emma, has epilepsy. It is basically ruining her teenage years, making her a social pariah and even killing her chances at driving like every other normal teen her age. One night, in a fit of frustration, she takes the family car and escapes, only to crash, driving the car off the road into the woods. Scared and lost, she wanders to a nearby cabin, where she asks a dark mysterious stranger for help. Of course he isn’t as he seems, and next thing Emma remembers is waking up in the hospital, having no idea of how she got there.

This is where the story really gets interesting. The creeper was a vampire, and she is starting to get his traits… but only some of them. And as she realizes what is happening to her, and discovers that the baddie is still after her, she runs to save her family, ending up on a nearby NASA base, which she uses as her new home while she can figure out exactly what is happening to her and how to stay alive in the process.

This story in some ways is basic in its plot. The protagonist does something stupid that alters her life. And then because of the results of this bad choice, she is basically being hunted, and needs to either run or face her accuser.  However, I didn’t feel any of that ordinariness when I was engrossed in the story. This book was incredibly intelligent. Those simple details were flushed out with interesting characters and unique ideas. Written by someone who works at NASA, the scientific details were accurate and really fascinating. Science makes magic more believable, in my humble opinion, and there was also a nice balance of that in the story. A part of me wanted to believe this story, that’s how well the science was infiltrated into the fantasy elements.

I also enjoyed the love interest being a really bright geek with a good heart, and it was a great way for the author to get scientific information across to the reader without blatant telling, which is generally a writing no-no. It was such a nice change of pace from the dark, handsome brooding hottie or the werewolf who has the hots for the protagonist. Sagan was a breath of fresh air, and I really enjoyed the dynamic between him and Emma.

This was a great book. I haven’t read a book in a while that excited me like this one did, and it is one I will surely read again in the future. Don’t let the simple title or stereotypical vampire romance cover throw you; there is a lot of amazing substance between the covers, and it is definitely worth a read!

 

Book News, Books, News

Excerpt from New Book Release The Unremembered

The Unremembered, by Peter Orullian, released yesterday (click here to read the summary of the book on our weekly book releases post). It’s publisher, Tor, has posted a nice excerpt of the book to get readers interested in this new story. Check it out!

 

Please enjoy this excerpt from The Unremembered by Peter Orullian, out today from Tor Books. If you would like more from his Vaults of Heaven series check out the original stories Sacrifice of the First Sheason,” The Great Defense of Layosah,” and The Battle of the Round,” on Tor.com.

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The sun shone bright upon the teeming roads of the city. A thick smell rose from the mixture of mud and wet straw. Small shops lined the byway, men and women hawking all manner of roots and elixirs. Others called to passersby to survey their fine coats or breeches, most fashioned of wool. A few carts displayed garish hats and scarves and belts. Most infrequent were the stores selling any kind of weapon. Rather, men selling dangerous wares stood in the recessed doorways of buildings that appeared otherwise abandoned. Knives or knuckle spikes lay on brown cloth near their feet, the proprietor standing back in a recess smoking from a pipe or a rolled bit of sweetleaf and watching the street cautiously.

“Which way?” Sutter asked.

“All gumption and no sense, Nails,” Tahn said, and slapped his back. “Where else? The palace.”

Sutter grinned. “You’ll make a fine advisor when I become king.”

Tahn laughed. “If you’re ever king, root-digger, I’ll wear the hat of bells and dance a heel-toe jig for your amusement.” They started east toward the city center.

At each cross street they stopped and marveled at the throngs of people milling on the road. Tahn looked on in amazement as the palace slowly rose before them. Soon the straw gave way to cobblestones. Men and women walked more slowly here, their shoes low cut, and the women without stockings. Wagons were replaced by carriages drawn by a single horse.

“Look at that,” Sutter said in a hushed, awed voice.

To their right walked two men in long amethyst cloaks, carry ing spears. Each spear bore a short violet pennon emblazoned with a yellow hawk holding a set of scales in its talons.

“City guard,” Sutter said with glee. “They’ve got to be.” Sun glinted off their helmets and the studs in their armor. Not ten strides behind them came another pair of guards similarly dressed but bearing maces hung at their waist.

“Come on.” Tahn pulled at Sutter’s cloak. “Let’s not look so conspicuous.”

The two approached a crowd gathered tightly together. Their attention seemed focused toward a fountain.

“What’s that?” Sutter asked.

Tahn led them through a maze of onlookers and soon saw the object of their attention. At the center of the large plaza, several men and women stood upon a broad, fl at wagon declaiming to one another in strident, clipped speech. It struck Tahn as familiar, and he quickly knew why. These people were performing, just like the scops in the Stone the night before. Only these players wore no masks, and they did not seem to intend to provoke laughter. Several hundred passersby had gathered to watch; and the wagon platform sat high enough that the performers could be heard and seen by all.

“Come on, let’s go.” Sutter’s face showed a twist of displeasure. “We can find something better in such a big city.”

Tahn resisted. “Just a moment.” He wanted to see more.

Sutter groaned. Tahn thought he saw more than simple impatience in his friend’s face; Nails seemed to bear a real distaste for these pageant troupers. Sutter fixed  accusatory eyes on the wagon and watched. Tahn thought he heard Sutter mumble something bitter about “awful parents,” before the players’ voices drowned him out.

“They must be driven from the land,” one player said.

A woman sang a phrase in a tongue Tahn did not know, her voice carrying easily above the crowd.

“Take hands, all, and this stand make,” a second woman declared.

Sutter appeared disinterested, and began searching in the direction of the guards they had seen. But the crowd around them did not move. Many nodded knowingly, others shook their heads as if wanting to disbelieve, but unable to do so.

“The sky grows black,” a young boy said. “Hurry, the sun flees this unhappy choice.” The lad looked into the distance, his eyes seeing something Tahn’s did not. Then the boy took hold of the hands of the players to each side of him; ten men and women and children formed a line upon the broad wagon and together looked over the heads of their audience at a distant event none could see. The boy was the shortest among them— at least two heads shorter than Tahn. But he looked wiry strong, at least in part due to a face set beneath a shock of flaxen hair that didn’t seem to know compromise.

Just then a commotion began at the edge of the crowd. Angry voices cried, “Disband, you! Enough of this!”

This brought Sutter’s attention back to the stage. “Guards?” His friend shifted position, trying to see what was happening.

Tahn looked back the way they had come. The crowd had closed in tight behind them, and the warmth of close bodies suddenly caused panic to rise in his throat.

“This is sedition!” one of the voices cried bitterly. “Don’t you know the law?”

Tahn stood on his toes and saw a small band of men and women parting the crowd and heading directly for the platform. Muttered talk erupted among those gathered to watch. The players released their hands and backed away from the edge of their wagon stage. The crowd grew larger, the sounds of strained voices rising from the edges of the gathering. People pressed forward, pinning Tahn and Sutter together.

The assembly parted to make way for the newcomers, who found the stage and turned to look back at those still watching.

“Have done with you, lest you find yourselves party to these here.” The man speaking pointed an accusing finger in a broad arc over the assemblage. A few of those gathered grumbled low, emboldened by the anonymity of being so deep in the crowd. Despite the warning, the throng made no move to break up. The official pulled himself onto the stage and cast vicious glances at them all. He wore a long, rich, russet-colored cloak trimmed in white, with a round seal embroidered in white thread upon his breast. The insignia depicted four arms, each gripping the next at the wrist in a squared circle. Tahn hadn’t seen the crest before, nor the rich, colorful cloaks, but he knew it belonged to the league. Near the leader, his comrades took defensive postures around the base of the wagon. Tahn thought it unnecessary; no one looked prepared to challenge them. The man’s broad face radiated disdain. He whirled on the players.

“This rhea-fol is treason!” he yelled. “It is seditious to recount lies and fables that give false hope.” His hand fell upon the hilt of his sword. “Who is responsible for this troop?”

The crowd hushed, those inclined to leave now riveted by this new scene being played out on the wagon. Sutter’s hot, panting breath hit Tahn’s neck.

Without a moment’s hesitation, the boy who’d last spoken stepped forward, away from his companions. “I am. What ever you have to do, do it to me.” The lad’s chest puff ed out and his chin assumed a defiant attitude. He clenched his fists and stared openly at the man in league uniform.

A collective gasp issued from the crowd, like the awe expressed at Gollerntime in the Hollows when all gathered to watch the stars race across the sky in long, bright streaks. The league captain looked out of the corner of his eye at the throng, then focused his rage on the impudent boy.

“In your diapers you can scarcely know the harm you do, boy,” he began. “I admire your loyalty to the troop leader, but don’t let it make you foolish. Loyalty is admirable only when well placed.”

Tahn watched the man’s lips curl as he spoke, leaving him with the impression that in a less public place, he might respond differently to the boy’s defiance.

“How mighty you are,” the boy replied, “to stop the performance of a simple rhea-fol, and our only means of bread and cups.”

“Stay your tongue, boy,” the man said, throwing his cloak over his shoulder to expose his blade. “The law holds no exceptions for age where sedition is charged. Find your mother’s teat, and stop bringing shame upon whoever owns this company!”

The boy swallowed and began again in a soft , measured voice. “It is a story, sir. A story. True or not, it is no threat to you. It is played for them.” The lad motioned with an upturned palm toward the growing crowd.

The man sniffed. “I’m done speaking with you, boy. What can you know of liberty, who have never put your life at risk in its defense?” He waved a dismissive hand. “Now, you will all be taken for the cowardice of he who lets a child stand in his place.”

“No!” the boy yelled and rushed the man. In an instant, the leagueman’s cloak whipped as though caught in a breeze, and the glint of steel rose in the air.

Tahn saw the moment unfold and began shaking his head, a sound erupting from his mouth unbidden: “Stop!”

The report of the command echoed off the stone of the courtyard beyond, filling the day with bright, hot contention. The boy skidded to a stop just a pace from the league captain, whose sword slowly dropped to his side as he searched the crowd. Men and women around Tahn and Sutter backed away.

“Will and Sky, Tahn, do you know how to travel,” Sutter whispered, stepping from behind Tahn to stand beside him.

“Who calls?” the captain demanded.

Tahn studied the other’s face as a wide path cleared between the wagon stage and him and Sutter. The league members standing around the wagon all drew their weapons. Tahn struggled with what to say; even the tales of the league in the Hollows were enough to teach him that you did not contradict one who wore its vestments. But as unsure as he was about what would happen next, he knew the lad should not be harmed.

“Leave the boy alone,” Tahn said, his voice more defiant than he had thought possible.

“By what authority do you make such a demand?” the leagueman asked, squaring around toward Tahn.

Beside him Sutter’s teeth ground. “By moral authority,” Sutter said. Tahn looked at his friend, whose voice projected conviction that Tahn had never heard. “He is a child. Who do you represent that would strike down one not yet old enough to Stand?”

The captain smiled, his teeth menacing in a wide, clean- shaven jaw. “Your accent, more to the south I think, or perhaps the west.” He put a hand on the lad’s chest and pushed him back. Then he jumped to the ground and the crowd receded further still. “How far west, boys? Beyond the Aela River I think. Perhaps you make your home as far as Mal’Tara. It is no secret what manner of men come out of that place.” He took deliberate steps toward them.

The leagueman’s expression confused Tahn. It carried a mixture of confidence and belief in his calling, and a dark, seething hatred that belied that call. Tahn unconsciously shifted his stance, placing his right foot forward and slightly bending his knees.

“We are from—”

Tahn lifted his hand to stay Sutter’s words.

When the captain came within three strides of him, Tahn looked closely at the crest on his breast, then to the ranks of leagueman that had fallen in behind him. He would say it once more. “He is a child, your honor, a melura. Impudent, perhaps, but not seditious.”

“I’ve no immediate concern for the troupe now,” the captain said, grinning. Again he threw his cloak over his shoulder, freeing his arm for movement. He spun his sword in his hand. “Do you know what accusation you have made, friend?” His words hissed like a sputtering candle.

“I know—”

“It is I, you Exigent hog!” The insult came from the stage. Over the leagueman’s shoulder Tahn saw Mira atop the wagon. She held the boy by the hand. “He is my seed, and you and your league are a privy rag for his melura ass!”

The captain whirled to see Mira’s fiery eyes inciting him. The league footmen rushed to the wagon. Mira took the boy and jumped from the far side, sprinting toward the alleys across the plaza. Though difficult to see, Tahn caught glimpses of the Far as she hoisted the boy up and slipped into the shadows with the speed of a prairie cat.

“Diversion,” Sutter whispered.

Sutter pulled Tahn’s cloak to get him moving, and together they turned back toward the Granite Stone. As they tried to find safety, Tahn’s mind raced. What did I just do?

Preoccupied with Mira, the league gave delayed chase. Sutter broke into a run first, but Tahn soon overtook his friend, leading them into tight byways. Straw kicked up beneath their heels, and a few pedestrians shouted insults at them as they raced past. Tahn wove a circuitous route to the inn, bringing them to its doors an hour later.

They’d arrived safe. Mira had gotten back to the Granite Stone ahead of them with the boy. But Vendanj and Braethen were no were to be found. Tahn and Sutter took the boy and locked themselves in their room.

[via Tor]

Book Interviews, Books, Interviews

Web-Chat with Danielle Trussoni, Author of Angelology

I recently read Angelology by Danielle Trussoni, specifically because I had seen this web-chat advertised by Penguin to promote the book coming out in paperback. A lot was discussed in the hour we had with her, and I would recommend checking out my review of the book first, so you have an idea of the premise of the story. I haven’t included all of the chat, because there was a lot of casual banter, but I hope you enjoy what I had the chance to ask her, along with some good questions from other fans. There are a few minor spoilers, but I don’t think they’ll take away from the story. Enjoy!

Lauren:

I wanted to know about the research that went into this book. Were you raised catholic? I was a religious studies major in college, and I found the level of complicated detail wonderful and believable. I was just curious about your research process.

Danielle:

To answer your question, Lauren–I was raised Catholic. I went to Catholic school for five years and this allowed me a seemingly endless amount of time for daydreaming while in church. But I actually was not a religious person as an adolescent and thus, when I found myself writing Angelology, I was on my own.

[Comment From another guest, katherine ]:

Danielle, can you talk a little about how you came to write this novel?

Danielle:

The research took over a full year, and I was literally in the library every day with stacks of books. Every location that you find in Angelology is an actual place that I have been, and the information about angels is all taken from Biblical texts. The research was a huge part of writing the novel.

Moderator:

So are angels the new vampires? 🙂

Danielle:

That’s what they tell me…

[Comment From another guest, megan ]:

I hope you’ll be using all of that research toward a next novel. Danielle, is there anything that you can let us know that you’re working on?

(the author here went on to mention the next book in the series, Angelopolis, due out tentatively next year some time)

[Comment From another guest, Danielle F ]:

Danielle, what other authors or books have had an influence on you as an author. And, what are you reading now (if you even have time!)

Danielle:

Well, I don’t have much time to read at the moment, although I just read a beautiful book called The Night Circus that is coming out in the fall. The books that have influenced me are, for the most part, 19th century novels, such as the books by Wilkie Collins. Contemporary authors such as AS Byatt (Possession) and Elizabeth Kostova (The Historian) and Umberto Eco’s Foucault’s Pendulum were all very influential.

[Angelology] took about one year, although when I construct a scene, I like to refresh my memory, and so I tend to do research even as I write.

Lauren:

I’m curious about your a-ha moment with this book, when you thought, wow, now that would make a good story. The whole replacing Noah’s son element was brilliant!

Danielle:

The a-ha moment came when I went to Saint Rose, and when I realized that I could use the history of angels in a dramatic way. So glad you like the Noah story!

[Comment From another guest, William Fraser ]:

Do you think you will ever allow the book Angelology to be turned into a movie. and i would really like to see Evangeline

Danielle:

Angelology has been bought by Sony pictures, with Will Smith producing and Marc Forester directing, so there may be a film soon. fingers crossed

[Comment From another guest, Kim ]:

FYI – I found myself reading the book then running to the shelf to check out some of your biblical facts, locations, etc. It was astounding your skill at weaving these things together.

Danielle:

Kim–Thank you. That was the biggest challenge in writing Angelology. I was always very aware that the research had to be accurate.

Lauren:

What was the hardest scene to write? What was your favorite scene from the book?

Danielle:

Lauren: The hardest scene? Probably the chase scenes, which are less intuitive for me. My favorite section was all of Sphere Two (1939 and 1944)

Lauren:

I know you said research took a year, but from start to finish, how long was the process?

Danielle:

It took about four years to write Angelology, but that includes a whole draft that I didn’t end up using. It was a bit of a long process. I hope Angelopolis won’t take so long!

Moderator:

Wow — do you think we might be seeing some of that unused draft later on?

Danielle:

We could use pieces of the unused draft. Although it gives me nightmares to read some of it!

Lauren:

curious, were you happy with the cover? I’ll confess, when I saw it I thought it was about something totally different than it was.

Danielle:

Hi Lauren, I actually love the picture of the angel (I am assuming you’re talking about the US cover?) It looks like a different kind of book, you’re right, but there is something haunting about the image.

Lauren:

yes, the US cover. I agree it has some sort of power to it–it is what drew me to the book in the first place.

Moderator:

Lauren — what did you think the book was about when you saw the cover?

Danielle:

Good question, moderator.

Lauren:

it was the nudity that threw me. I thought it was a romance-based book, maybe about a relationship between a girl and an angel, the typical stuff.

Gotta say I was pleasantly surprised! 🙂
Danielle:

Ahh! That is interesting Lauren. Do you think people would have liked that better?

So glad–I like to surprise people. 🙂
Lauren:

Um, I don’t necessarily think so. I work in this industry, and that vein is pretty saturated. I liked the evil element, the beauty, and the fact that the main character was a nun led me to believe that it wouldn’t be all about sex from start to finish. There was a lot more going on there, and that combined with your precise research made it much more enjoyable than the run-of-the-mill idea, personally.

About your writing, would you mind walking us through a typical writing day? I know nothing is really typical, especially since you said you like to do research while you write so it’s fresh, but in general, do you have a routine?
Danielle:

Hi Lauren, I actually do have a typical day. I’m up around 8 and writing as soon as I’ve had breakfast. I work until 12:00 or so and then have lunch. In the afternoon, I edit what I’ve written. So I have a pretty typical work day.

Lauren:

I’m sitting here trying to pinpoint what my favorite part of the book was, and I think I’d have to say how you blended the past and present. Weaving the characters’ lives together, old and young, getting insight from all these different places, that was my favorite part. I really enjoyed connecting them in my mind as the story continued.

Danielle:

Thank you Lauren. I love going back and forth in time. There is a little bit of that in Angelopolis, but not as much as in Angelology.

Lauren:

Any advice for those wanting to be on the other side, so to speak? (the published writers side)

Danielle:

Lauren–Just write as much and publish as much (in magazine and online) as possible. Building a portfolio will help you get an agent.

There is potential for a more exclusive interview in the future, so stay tuned!

Book Reviews, Books, Reviews

Angelology, a Well-Researched, Wonderful Literary Ride

Angelology, written by Danielle Trussoni, was a refreshing break from the YA science fiction and fantasy I read on a regular basis. Steeped in history and loaded with accurate religious references, Angelology was a well-researched literary ride that, at its core, is one heck of a fascinating adventure.

Evangeline, a Catholic nun of twenty-three, gets a request from a researcher to access the convent’s historical documents to gather information for a client. He’s investigating letters exchanged between the Mother superior running things during World War II and none other than Abigail Rockefeller, John D. Rockefeller’s wife. What starts out as a seemingly simple request for information soon becomes much more, as Evangeline learns why this old connection is so important, and why this is information now being sought after.

Evangeline becomes thrust into the world of the Angelologists, a group of people over the millennia who have fought in secret to prevent humanity’s downfall. The enemy? Nephilim, beings who are half-angel, half human, able to blend in enough not to be obviously discovered, but powerful enough to weld serious control and influence over those around them.

These letters contain vital information, truth to secrets that would change the balance of the world forever. The enemy wants them, and the Angelologists will do everything in their power to prevent that from happening. Evangeline is stuck in the middle, and as she learns more and more, she starts to discover that her involvement is more than just circumstantial; these interactions have shaped her life, both present and past, and could change her future completely.

As I read the above description, even though it accurately describes the story, it doesn’t really explain it, not really. There are so many wonderful layers, twists, and turns that are really what make this book a winner. The story jumps from the point of view of different characters, from the nuns to the investigator, the villain to the Angelologists. The entire middle section of the book is a flashback to the time of World War II and the events that occurred then, which have completely dictated what direction the people in the present must take. I really enjoyed this part of the book. A lot of the characters described in detail at this point had been mentioned in some fashion prior to this, and it was great to learn more about them. It was also cool to see them from different eyes, seeing those who are known as good as not-so-perfect, and seeing the enemy as flawed and relatable. Trussoni’s character development was fantastic, and it was my favorite part of the story.

I can’t leave out mentioning the religious details though. The author did a year of research, and it shows. So much of the story was accurate, and she weaved fact and fantasy so seamlessly that sometimes it was hard to tell what truth and what was invented. It added an element of credibility and believability to the story that at times made me feel like I was reading a memoir and not a fiction book.

I did see the ending coming, and the only complaint I have is that a few of the big surprises, to me, were obvious in coming. But that didn’t mean I didn’t enjoy getting to the point where these truths were revealed. And honestly, I liked the things I discovered, even if I had had a sneaking suspicion beforehand.

Excellent, excellent book. Such a nice read, so different from what I was expecting (the cover made me think, at a glance, that it was just another angel-human romance story). If religious-based fiction is up your alley, you have to give Angelology a look-see. It was so much more than I was expecting, and that is a great thing, as it turned out to be one of the most interesting books I’ve read in recent history.

Want more? I had the pleasure of participating in a web-chat with the author, so check it out!